A new report details just how close guests at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort could — and likely did — get to the thousands of government documents, some of them marked classified, that Trump removed from the White House upon his departure from office.
The reporting from The New York Times features an interactive, 3-D rendering of the compound, showcasing just how accessible the documents were to the average member of Mar-a-Lago and to guests who attended gatherings held at the resort since January 2021.
Most of the thousands of documents were kept in a storage area at the property, accessible through two sets of doors near a popular event space and pool. Photos obtained by the Times show that the doors were sometimes kept wide open during events held at Mar-a-Lago, suggesting that guests had access to the hallways that led to the storage area where the documents were kept.
Trump lawyer Christina Bobb once commented that the area wasn’t accessible to the average guest, telling Fox News in August, “You can’t just walk down there.” But as the Times noted, the storage area contained beach chairs and cleaning supplies, demonstrating that it didn’t have the level of security that is generally required for the storage of classified government documents.
“Highly sensitive materials like the documents found at Mar-a-Lago are usually viewed inside a secure, enclosed area with a safe built to meet strict guidelines,” the Times reported.
Access to Mar-a-Lago is generally limited to members of the property, but Trump and those members have hosted large gatherings at the resort. One event sold around 800 tickets granting guests access to the pool area, just yards away from where the documents were being stored.
Trump’s personal quarters, where federal investigators found many of the documents he removed from the White House, also lack security. Trump’s office is generally invite-only, but images from social media that the Times included in its reporting show that below Trump’s office, where the Grand Ballroom at Mar-a-Lago is located, there is an easily accessible staircase that goes to the floor of Trump’s quarters. The images don’t depict any significant security measures limiting access to the staircase, save for one occasion when a velvet rope was put in place to discourage guests from going upstairs.
Given the amount of parties and gatherings that were held at Mar-a-Lago during the nearly two years that the documents were kept there, it’s likely that thousands of people were within a few dozen feet — if not closer — to the unsecured classified materials.
Trump has maintained that he had the right to remove government documents when he left office under the parameters of the Presidential Records Act, an assertion that experts say is simply false. Trump has also claimed, without evidence, that he had declassified the documents he kept at Mar-a-Lago while he was president, another claim that experts have debunked.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) is currently investigating Trump’s removal of the documents from the White House and their storage at Mar-a-Lago. Recent actions by special counsel Jack Smith demonstrate that the DOJ is “on a path to charge” the former president, possibly within a month, former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara recently said.